Thursday, December 30, 2010

Productive

I had a productive day today. Most probably because it started at 2:30 am when I bolted out of bed after 2 hours sleep. Sometime jetlag has its uses. I finished sketching the contours in GIS for my stress provoking school project. I also managed to plan out what the next stage needs to be - I wrote an outline and listed the plans I still need to draw up. I then went to work while it was still rather dark outside and built up and installed a new Linux machine as well as started building the Android tree. Had quite a few meetings and discussions - mostly marveling at fact that our ex-president was convicted of sexual harassment and rape, no less. I then came home, unpacked the shed and the camping gear, found the groundsheets. Built the old sun shade, put up the covering for the party (a huge job, thanks to Steve and Gilli for the help) and riveted the legs of the BBQ back in place. I then cut a huge amount of veggie and started putting together the giant pot of minestrone soup for the party. I finally managed to read (and absorb) the Nadav Na'aman paper for class next week. All this while constantly threatening the kids with disownment if they didn't help - of course, they didn't. Now it's only 8:30pm and I'm bone tired. I need a good night's sleep, and hope the jetlag will cower in defeat at my content packed day.

p.s. I just remembered, I also fixed the downstairs cordless phone which had ceased to work while we were away (how surprising). Thanks to google, I found the trick. It needed a complete reboot, which required removing the battery and resetting the handset.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sorts

I've been very "sort of" since we came home. Sort of sleeping, sort of not. Sort of ready to have a huge New Year's Party, sort of not. Sort of happy to be home, sort of not. Maybe it's the sort of weather here in Israel - sort of hot, sort of not. I'm sort of out of sorts.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Home Jerome.

This is the sight we arrived home to at the crack of dawn this morning. Very sweet indeed. It is great to be back, although I have yet to see the kids - it's now nearly 11am and they are still asleep. I have to say I've missed them like an amputated limb. We arrived home, I unpacked and then collapsed on my bed for a few hours sleep.

Not all is 100% (come on this is Israel and our house after all). The house looks like a barrel of monkeys jury rigged a computer network while blindfolded. The Lavazza espresso machine is not working at all. The Bodum coffee filter (the espresso alternative) was not cleaned after its last use and contained the dried, congealed remains of what looks like the makings of bush tea. And I haven't dared to even approach the down-down stairs. All in all, It's good to be home.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cheat

She cheated. She slipped things into my case behind my back. One would think that 3 cases at 50 pounds and a large carry on packed to exploding would be enough. But no, she snuck the slippers she bought for the boy into one of my poor bag's side pockets. Unbelievable, and people want to know why I'm stressed.

It's off to the Houston Intergalactic Airport in a few minutes, then a stop over for 10 hours in Frankfurt (assuming everything goes as planned) and off home arriving around 3am Tues. It's a long way home.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Vietnamese Sandwiches

Why didn't anyone tell me about Vietnamese sandwiches before? What kind of friends are you? Talk about delicious. And only $2.50. This has made this trip to the US worthwhile.

p.s. I was going to take a picture but I couldn't wait and just inhaled two of them. Yum.

p.p.s. In an unrelated note, go look at the New York GIS project (Mannahatta Project), the TED talk is especially interesting.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

De Family

Houston is all about family. I am very lucky. Last night was blacknephewo's birthday celebration. He was actually born on Christmas Day, but he is leaving Houston tomorrow for Dallas, so we celebrated last night. My sister put on an excellent feast as usual and once again I ate too much. Almost all the family is in town. E+L and kids from Albany, CA, bno newly situated in Cleveland, OH there is us from Raanana, and all the rest from Houston, TX (we are missing G+S and kids from Dallas). There are lots of kids and happy grandparents, and the houses are filled with laughter and noise.
My mother with little Zach, currently the youngest of the brood. There are more on the way though.
The birthday boy and Ben playing with Lego. Stevie was always the Lego king and the new generation definitely has the the building gene.
Grandmothers, Great-Grandmothers, Mothers and some of the kids. Very cool indeed.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Special Hell

Israel's special version of hell is the waterpark at Shvayim in the middle of summer holidays. America's version is the 99 cent store on the corner of Voss and Westheimer the week before Christmas. I needed to drop bwo off to do some shopping while I went to a lunch meeting today. After my lunch I called and found out she was at the 99 cent store and would I please come pick her up (and I should take my time as she was mid shop). I thought I had it covered as the traffic was heavy and I struggled to find parking in the vicinity, which was the first sign of trouble. There is always parking in Houston. This place has space. This is the only time I have ever had to walk any distance. Well the store is large, much bigger on the inside than it looks from the street. And it's packed. People (women) everywhere. People marveling over the Colt 45 malt liqueur (pronounced 'likker') for 99c, the 99c Christmas tree ornaments. the 99c expired sour patch candies, the 99c kitchen utensils and the 99c candles. Everything is slightly not-new looking. It is also true that everything is 99c cents as opposed to Israeli bargain stores e.g. the 10 shekel store on Ahuza street that has one thing that is 10 shekels and everything else costs more. Still it was horrid. People everywhere bumping you with their carts, pushing you out the way, touching you. It's hell I tell you, pure hell.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bing Crosby and David Bowie (Will Ferrel and John C. Reilly)

It's Sunday today and most of my family is in town. E+L came on from Oakland with their kids and nephew Stevie is due in from NY any moment. I know it's not Tuesday, but nephew Eddie pointed this out to me and I feel I must share. In 1977 during Bing Crosby's tour of the UK he was scheduled to sing a Christmas duet with David Bowie. The full story of this meeting (odd to say the least) can be read here (Ziggy Stardust meets Twilight Time). The resulting Christmas song (Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth) can be heard in many of the stores bwo shleps me to. Check out the original:

There is an excellent spoof with Will Ferrel and John C. Reilly. Check this out (watch to the end):

Merry Christmas all.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Taste of Travel.

We've been on the road and therefore there have been no blog updates for a few days. We left the hospitality of Jonathan and Dewi in Los Altos Hills and drove to Albany on Thursday morning. We dropped our luggage off at Eddie and Lisa and then made our way to Folsom, for a meeting. We had a nice drive through California, Luckily there was a large outlet mall close by, so blackwifeo had somewhere to shop while I met. We drove back to Albany (2 hours) after the meeting and had an excellent evening with E+L and the kids. Lovely kids.

Our rental car, a Hyundai Genesis performed spectacularly. What a nice vehicle. It has every bell and whistle you could hope for and has a smooth ride. It's a bit of a gas guzzler, but hey, you can't have everything.

Friday morning bright (well not so bright) and early we drove over the Bay Bridge to San Fransisco airport. The weather was not good and there was already a large backup over the bridge but we got to the airport with plenty of time. This is not a good time to be traveling anywhere. The Christmas rush is on and the airport and planes were packed to capacity. Everything was running late (they have the weather to blame). We were fortunate to get to Houston with only a half hour delay. Brother Arnie was waiting for us at the airport, we dropped off our luggage and went straight to Friday night dinner with the family at Barry and Laura. After a good meal and birthday cake (Sydney turned three) we arrive back at Arnie and Olive were we both collapsed from exhaustion. It is strange - I am not fully over my jetlag yet. It has been more than a week, but I have not been stressing, just not sleeping well. This morning I'm up before the sun and hoping to do some school work.

I hope you enjoyed the little taste of what it's like to travel with the blacko family.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Dessert Game

We went out for dinner with myoung last night. He demonstrated a Dessert picking game that seems quite successful. You each quietly pick two desserts without telling each other. Once you have decided, you point out your choices (to an unbiased observer - that would typically be the dessert avoiding me). If you have two overlaps, you have to order both, if you have one then that's the choice. If there are no overlaps, I'm afraid there's no dessert for you. I'm not completely clear how you would scale the game fairly for parties of more than two or three, but it seems like a good way to decide how to end one's meal.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Crisis, What Crisis

It's amazing, whenever we go away there is drama back at home. We have had break-ins and floodings, computer crashes and cat emergencies. Now it seems that the person who was kindly looking after the house, cats and kids has chicken pox. Oh, and the storm took out the computer network in the house. All this and more. We spend hours on the phone, luckily international calls have never been cheaper. I suppose we should never go away again.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Google

I got to visit the google campus today. It is interesting to wander around the buildings that I spent so much time in when I worked for SGI. They have changed completely. Google must have four times as many people on the campus than there were in the heyday of SGI, still the buildings look the same. There are free Odwalla fridges filled with fresh juice everywhere. The building that I met my contact in, bld. 44, has a host of pinball and videogame machines in a nice common area. There are people everywhere and yet, the Silicon Valley rumor mill says Google is losing people to Facebook etc at a rapid pace. There are even those that claim they are yesterday's news. Certainly walking around the campus I didn't get that feeling, and I had plenty time to experience what a company going down feels like. It was even in the same buildings.

We're now in Cali, but looking back on Bucks County

I missed out blogging for a few days mainly because we were having such a good time, that I was loath to even open my computer. We are now in California after a long, delayed flight from Newark. We got in late last night and Jonathan and Dewi have been as welcoming as ever.

We had an awesome time in Bucks County with Suzanne and Todd. There are some people in this world who it is very easy to feel at home with. They spoiled us rotten. We spent time eating, walking, talking and netfliking. Lots of talking. As much as I may claim to be anti-social, there are some people in this world who are a pleasure to be around. I have been blessed with close friends throughout my life, and it is especially sweet when you find the kind of friends that you are completely comfortable with no matter how often you see them. All I can say is we had a special time.

That's the stream we walked along, and yes that's ice on the water. It was cold. But their house was warm and light and friendly.
No this is not where they live, it's a picture bwo took with her iphone of one of an old mill in the area.
Our walk in the cold. Gomez seemed to have no problem with the weather. He enjoyed being outside and chasing sticks. Dogs are much friendlier than cats.

We were sad to leave our friends, but the trip continues. It feels like we are going from dream house to dream house. J+D's house in California is really nice. Work starts for me today. I am still missing having a camera. I will have to wait till I get to Houston for that to be remedied.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bucks County, PA

Our flight from Tel Aviv to Newark was uneventful. Bwo slept and I watched movies. About 5 or so, along with some napping in between. Todd was waiting at Newark to meet us, very nice considering the plane came in at 4:50am meaning he had to get up around 3am. We drove off to their house in Bucks County, PA about an hour from Newark.

What a place. No words can describe this. Its a beautiful house, excellently laid out with lots of wood and an unbelievably high ceiling. The house is near the Delaware River near a quaint little town (more on this tomorrow). We have the bottom floor to ourselves. The upper floor has the kitchen and their bedroom suite and there is a sort of open attic TV room way at the top. Everything is perfect (the bed is very comfortable, indeed bwo is fast asleep). We went into the little town for breakfast and then Suzanne and I took Gomez for a walk along the mule path on the bank of the canal next to their house. We then sat around the fire in the living room and spoke amongst ourselves.

I am loving this place. It is quiet, with perfect comfort. Couldn't hope for a better and more relaxing start to the trip. Thanks T+S.

The pictures will do it no justice as I only have my iPhone camera. My new camera will be waiting for me in Houston (hopefully).

This is the sun rise in the distance. The view is out of the kitchen window.
This is their side porch and deck. You can't really see the slope of the mountain to the right, but it is quite steep.

I didn't mention that it's cold. Yep that's the canal frozen over. How nice is that floating piece of ice, it is actually standing a meter or so in the air although it's hard to tell from the picture. This was take while on our walk before I froze solid.
Gomez laying by the fire. Both Suzanne and Todd claim to want to come back as him in a future life. Gomez has it made.
This is the view from near the fireplace. Check out the high ceiling and the upper TV room. It's a lovely place and the people who live here aren't bad at all. I told Todd and Suzanne I'm moving in.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Time To Go

The taxi will arrive in 10 minutes to take us to the airport. We are off to the US for a while. I'll miss the kids, but not the cats. Why is it that blackwifeo has stilled not closed her cases. This is a most dangerous time, where she starts stuffing last minute things into her bags. She seems to feel that once the case is closed there is no going back. The kids and the house should be fine, there is a list of instructions and telephone numbers a mile long. The money has been given out, hopefully blackdaughtero does not spend it all tomorrow. We only have three cases with us, a forth will be acquired while in the US. They say it's cold there, we'll find out soon enough.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Some Dude

Some dude hit upon my wife today. The story as she tells it is that she was driving along in her car (the mizbeleh) when some dude on a motorcycle pulled up beside her and gave her the beady eyeball. He followed her onto Itzhak Sadeh Street (the road our HaNevel leads into) and flagged her down. "He asked for a cigarette" she claims. "What you flagged me down just to ask for a smoke?", she asked some dude. He then told her, no he just wanted to talk to her. "Leave me alone, I'm married" she quipped in response.

She then rushed home to proudly tell me this story. Look, I know she is a beauty. I'm surprised that more dudes don't hit on her. Funny thing is she's been walking on cloud nine ever since. I never knew that being hit upon was so very good for one's self esteem.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

John Lee Hooker

No words are necessary for this. How about some blues. John Lee Hooker "Boom Boom". Isn't the internets fantastic.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wow

Believe it or not. It's raining.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Fifth Candle

What you see above is called "The Hupper" in my family. It's an Americanized version of the word 'chupper (pronounced with a 'ch as in חבר, I know of no English equivalent. The word is derived from the Afrikaans word "gap" which means to grab). My dad found one of these many years ago, no one seems to remember where, it always seemed to be around. It enchanted him. The hand (the original hand was green) would come out slowly and reach for the coil placed in the slot, and then snap back with a pop. No matter how many times he showed off "The Hupper", his unmitigated joy never lessened. I remember (I must have been less than 10 years old) on Jewish Holidays when the house on Mill Park Road was crawling with people, Dad proudly bringing out "The Hupper" to collect coins from the red-faced men crowded around the bar.

Once the grandchildren came along, "The Hupper" was brought out of retirement. I think there was a new version (Hupper 2.0) by now, I seem to think the hand had changed color from the original green to a pale yellow as seen above. I have this image of my Dad beaming with glee as my kids had their pennies grabbed while sitting on their knees around the dining room table in the apartment on North Braeswood. He really loved the snap of the coin being snatched and got as much joy from the millionth coin as from the first.

Today is the fifth candle of Hanukah, and its my dad's Yartzite (memorial day). While his huge influence on who we are is felt daily, it's the little things that make us smile.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Firery Rant

In a normal country, after a huge fiasco that this massive fire in the Carmel appears to be, heads would roll. One would expect that the person who was in control of the horribly understaffed, under equipped and underpaid fire department would be axed. That would be the minister of the interior here. What are the chances that anything will happen to Eli Yishai. In a country where they have billions of dollars worth of the most advanced fighter jets in the world, it's a disgrace that we don't have nearly enough fire fighting planes. So far 41 people dead and millions of dollars of damage, not to mention the cost to the environment. We have had to beg for assistance from the rest of the world. This fire could quite easily have been caused by a Hisbollah missile? Surely the safely of one's citizens is of prime importance. As long as Shas has schools and synagogues and that conversions are controlled by the ultra orthodox, why worry about something as trivial as fire equipment.

In true Israeli form our government is only capable of being reactive. I suppose once this fire is out, it's still burning and destroying homes and forests, there will be commissions and committees, and so much talk. Action. Let's see some action. I hate to think what would happen if there was an earthquake.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

David and Solomon.

Do me a favor and read this National Geographic article on the archaeological background to David and Solomon. It has all the players. I sit in Israel Finkelstein's graduate seminar class twice a week. It is a marvelous experience because twice a week I am brought face to face with my own inadequacies and lack of knowledge. My problem is I have no opinion, and in a class full of very opinionated and knowledgeable students, I must just sit back and watch and listen. It is a privilege and I value the experience deeply.

The article above covers a lot of the in class discussion, all about "Text and Archaeology" where "text" really means the bible. We have spoken about the copper mining and smelting site at Hirbet El-Hahas. Finkelstein likes Tom Levy. We have covered Hazor, Tel el-Ful just outside Jerusalem and Kadesh Barnea in the Sinai. Each lesson is filled with vigorous argument, disagreement and lively discussion and helps me accept just how much there is to learn. Computers are so much simpler.

There is another article in the news section of the journal Nature, about science and archaeology at Megiddo. I spent a day digging with the scientists. It was big fun.

Two Women

I met with two interesting women today. Separately, of course and with ages on different ends of the scale.

I had breakfast with "the beautiful Tal" at some hip place in Tel Aviv (some place called Zorik). She seems to still be glowing from her recent wedding, so much so that strangers butted into our conversation just to be acknowledged by her. We spoke about married life, university and how one should not eat "A" vegetables. She had an avocado sandwich none the less.

Later I met with Noami who grew up in the house I am researching for my Standing Buildings project. She is in her late eighties, but is totally together. She lives in a airy, light penthouse next to the Beit Rishonim (in Herzliya, the house I'm investigating). She told me stories of growing up in Herzliya in the 1920s while they were building the house. She pointed out the rooms and who stayed where (I got some of the old plans from the city archives). She's a wealth of knowledge and stories. I am now trying to make sense of all the changes and additions to the house over the years. She's an artist who amongst her other creations are some amazing needlework pieces. Her father, who built the house, was an agronome (not sure what that is in English, possibly a botanist) - one of the leading figures in the fledgling country. He compiled a book of fables around plants (called Tzimchiel) and she put together a needlework version of every colorful page. An amazing women. Her parting words were something to the effect of "if you aren't creating you may as well be dead".

Nice.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

16 shells from a Thirty-Ought Six

I didn't forget that it's music Tuesday today, but I've been busy. So here is some Tom Waits to keep you off the streets.

Pictures from the Old Country

By brother and sister-in-law are in Port Elizabeth, the "ancestral home" of all of us (according to John). He has been sending back pictures. Below you can see the house at number 35 where we grew up, the bench at the end of Mill Park Road (that's my sister-in-law) and the park at the end of Walton Road we played in where our nannies would walk us there. Talk about nostalgia.



Monday, November 29, 2010

EBay

Hey Babe, 118 EBay buys in the last 18 months. Don't you think that a little bit excessive?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Down-down Stairs

Since I started studying, the guitar building has been pretty much put on hold. I used to go down-down stairs into the shop for a few hours now and then to do a little work on the current project (a dreadnaught for eddie), but then the boy moved his drumset down there. The boy (bless him) is the single most untidy human being in the world. He doesn't even see mess, let alone understand order. Since his drumset, and therefore "the band" settled down there, it breaks my heart just to look at my shop. So I stated avoiding going down at all costs. Things just got worse and worse. Of course, any free space, or surfaces that are not piled high in this house become prime targets for junk dispersal, and what could be better than a place out of sight and out of mind. So my shop became another junk storage area. Clearly I haven't been shouting about this enough and the fear of putting things in my shop has apparently worn off. Well, today I had enough and I got stuck in. I have been sorting and chucking. I already have a huge hefty bag full of junk, and this is just the beginning.

This job will take weeks, but I'm not going to give up. Perhaps one of these days I can actually finish the guitars down there.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Another (not so) Boring Saturday

I am afraid of getting burned out on archaeology. I have been reading, researching, going to class, writing papers and visiting sites. So I've decided to cool it on the sites for a while. I got up this morning and instead of battling to wake the boy and motoring off into the distance, I went for a walk around the neighborhood. Nice and peaceful. The weather is awesome. Not to hot and not too cold. I'm listeing to an audiobook about everyday life in ancient Egypt (more archaeology), really quite interesting. Not much seems to be known about the everyman. Mostly they were peasant farmers, but it seems most of what was written was about nobles, the working classes didn't get a lot of press.

I have had a good day. I cleaned up more paperwork and learned more about mapinfo (a GIS program). I'm going upstairs to shower and then I think I'll read about standing buildings.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

My wife is amazing. No one can rustle up a delicious meal in less time. Tonight it took her 13 minutes to make the curried chickpeas and rice. It really tastes as good as it looks. It's another one of the things I'm thankful for.

I have so much to be thankful for. I like Thanksgiving, it's probably my favorite holiday of all, and even though we have our Thanksgiving meal tomorrow night, I still feel it's a special day. I'm thankful for so many things, I am so lucky. Enjoy the turkey (tofurky or otherwise) all of our US friends, we are are thinking of you.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Camera Shuffled Off This Mortal Coil.

Our camera (Canon SX10) died yesterday. I hate it when that happens. It just stopped working. It took OK pictures but was always a battery hog (was 80% at best), but now it's completely dead. It won't turn on at all. I was in the middle of photographing hundreds of documents for my project, when it gave up the ghost. Now what? Luckily I have the small pocket Fuji, but I need something more serious for this project which requires me to fully document a standing building where pictures are a large part of the work. I checked up repair costs, and most places in the US want around $100 just to look at the thing. Never mind how much it would cost in Israel. Sigh... Bad timing. I wish I could afford the Nikon I've been lusting over for ages.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Terminal

I've been on a bit of a "Tom Hanks Movie Streak" of late. I'm not usually one who rushes out and buys soundtracks, but I found the soundtrack to "The Terminal" particularly striking. The main title theme in particular is particularly fitting. John Williams did a good job. Nice work.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cute

We had a board meeting at the school tonight. After the meeting we were on our way out when we were greeted with this. It's a kitten, very cute (the picture really does not do it justice), that decided to sit in the Thanksgiving left overs box. Appropriate don't you think. And no I don't want any more cats, thank you very much.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Babe

My wife is going through a "babe" phase. She has started calling everyone "babe". It's "babe" this and "babe" that all day long. I noticed it was getting out of hand when she called the plumber "babe". This must stop.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Listen Closely

I woke up at 6am as planned. I looked out of the window, saw the mist and decided I'm just not going out. I had planned to drag the boy to Tel Qashish (near Yokneam), but stayed at home and watched "The Terminal" as part of my current November quest to see every Tom Hanks movie ever made (I'm not doing too badly). I did some autocad, mapinfo, "Standing Buildings" and "Text and Archaeology" work, but not nearly enough. All I've eaten is cheesecake, chocolate biscuits and peanut butter sandwiches. Tonight is the dreaded school Thanksgiving Party. O.K. now listen closely, I will say this only once, from tomorrow... Yes from tomorrow, I'm going to eat right, and start getting back in shape. Enough of this laying around, I suppose you need to scrape the bottom before you can start climbing out. The thing is, I've never been happier.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Wedding

The Beautiful Tal got married last night. Now, we get invited to a lot of weddings, but this one was certainly one of the most mooshkaat (hard to find an English equivalent - it basically means "invested in" or perhaps lavish). The food was great, there was lots of sushi. There was Glenfiddich as well as The Macallen. The place was one of the nicest, if not the nicest I have seen in Israel. And there was a lot of beautiful people, so the people watch was second to none. Blackwifeo and I did not know a single soul, besides The Beautiful Tal herself - which only added to the people watch. When you look at her family, you can see where her looks and personality come from. If judging what one's wife will look like in the future by looking at her mother, the groom has certainly lucked out. Most importantly the music was just plain excellent. So what can I say, either it was a very good wedding or I am getting less judgmental in my old age.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jonsi

I have had a bit of time lately :-) So I have read a lot of rubbish and watched a lot of junk. One movie that was way better than I would have thought, was "How To Train Your Dragon" an animated Dreamworks thingy. The movie is very well done - it's funny and the CG is excellent. The dragon's movements are just so catlike, I couldn't help really liking him. I also liked the song at the closing credits. It appears it's Jonsi from Iceland, yes the non-English parts are Icelandic. This is the song overlaid on the official trailer for the movie. Unfortunately it ends rather abruptly, so go find a full version, there are plenty available on YouTube.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Deep Sigh


I have really tried to keep away from politics on the blog lately. It just makes me upset when I need to think of all the wasted opportunity and greed. But every now and again a story works me up and I need to say something. You know, I really can't stand Limor Livnat (the picture above says it all). She's now the "Culture and Sports Minister" after ruining education. There are these actors who refuse to perform in the theater in Ariel, over the Green Line in the West Bank. I can see where these actors are coming from, and I can see how rightists would claim that the government should not give these people any funding. It's what you would expect from uncultured fascists. Livnat has now jumped on the bandwagon and decided that she would force all state-funded cultural institutions to sign a commitment to perform all over Israel as a condition for continued funding. More irritating than this even is her plan to grant a special annual award aimed at encouraging "Zionist art". Is there no end to the narrow-minded, popularist measures these people will take to stay in power. Sigh.

What is really annoying is that all these measures are forcing me to accept the fact that we don't really live in a democracy. Man, I've tried to ignore the signs for years, but they just won't let me.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Khribat Za'aq

Today we went down to Beer Sheva (again) to collect some of the boy's stuff from dorms. On the way after stopping at the services on Hwy 6 for coffee and borekas we stopped at Hurvat Za'aq (Or Khirbet Za'aq) so I could say we did some archaeology.

I could not find a whole lot about Khirbet Za'aq except that it seems it was an extension of the large settlement at Tel Halif which we visited a while back. It turned out to be a most interesting place. According to the little bit I could find, it seems it Za'aq was occupied between the 2nd and 5th CE (Late Roman and Byzantine period). The are tons of caves and cisterns dug into the ground. The signs around say these had something to do with the Bar Kochba rebellion, but some of the other, more official looking data, seems to claim they are Iron/Bronze age burial tombs.

It's a wonderful place to go visit and if you are interested in exploring caves and crawling around ruins, this place is perfect. It's not that easy to get to - its at New Israeli Grid Coordinates 187468/591488. Basically exit Highway 40 at the Dvira turnoff (road 3255) and follow the signs for the Za,aq Ruin once you have gone a few kilometers. It really is well worth a visit.






Yip there are all sorts of caves, and ruins and stuff.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Tale of Three Backpacks.

These three bags seem to reflect my life at the moment. I use all three (no, not at the same time). I call them bags but they are all three backpacks. I believe in the backpack and abhor the briefcase or roller thingymabob.

The one in the middle is my "work bag". It's a Swiss Army backpack that I bought years back and have used to travel all over the world. It fits my 17" macbook comfortably and I have all the pockets and compartments organized so I can find things quickly. It has been my primary bag for years, it's comfortable to carry on my bag even when heavy, and it's often very heavy.

On the left is my "school bag". It's the bag I take to the university. It has way to many straps and niknacks, but my brother gave it to me so the price was right. It fits all my school books, files, bible, pencil case etc. It is not that well made and the zippers are already giving problems, but then it doesn't need to be.

On the right is my "archaeology bag". This is the bag I take with me on Saturday mornings and the bag that I used during digs at Megiddo. It holds my trowel, gloves, compass, tape measure, notebook, flashlight etc. It is rather beaten-up from laying around in the dirt and being shlepped up mountains. I'm fond if it.

All three backpacks have headache pills in the front compartment. I know what's important.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An Uncle


As usual I'm a little late. Thanks to my cousin Avril's FB post I suddenly realized than Monday was one year since my Uncle Gus passed away. It's hard to believe the time has gone so quickly. I think about Uncle Gus often. He was a larger than life kind of guy, always smiling and always with a twinkle in his blue blue eyes. I always see him sitting, years ago, on the couch in the flat in Schwartz street balancing a huge tower of ash on his Broadway 100 (he gave up years back). His vocabulary, a mix of Afrikaans and Yiddish, is an integral part of this family.

I found the picture above in my mom's picture cupboard in Houston. My dad is on the left and Uncle Gus on the right. I suppose that's my grandparents in between. The picture hangs here in my home office and I look at it every day. I believe this must be my parent's wedding. The picture is spotted and faded, but it perfectly captures a moment in time. The brothers were young and had the world before them, I wonder if they thought about the mark they would leave. I hope they realize the impact they had on all of us.

Friday will be his first great-grandchild's Brita, I'm sure Uncle Gus will be smiling happily.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Unthanks

It should be well known by now that I have always been partial to English folk music. It comes from many happy evenings spent with Paul at the Four Winds Folk Club while I was growing up. So I'm always excited to find new folk music (for me). I don't remember where I first heard Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, but I bought their album "cruel sister" a while back and have been listening to it off and on. I see that they have changed their names to "The Unthanks", I can highly recommend "The Bairns" - my personal favorite album of theirs.

Here they perform "The Testimony of Patience Kershaw".



The song was written by Frank Higgins and tells the story of Patience Kershaw who was a hurrier, or coal thruster. Someone who worked in the mines (usually children) pushing coal carts - basically one of the worst jobs in the world. In the 1840s the Ashley Mines commission heard testimony about just how terrible conditions were in the mines. Patience Kershaw was no. 26 you can read her horrifying testimony here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Buddha Burger

We celebrated the girl's birthday by going out to dinner tonight. True, it's a few days late, but she didn't mind. We decided to shrug off the usual birthday meal at zozobra and to try the new "Buddha Burger" restaurant in Raanana. It seems Buddha Burger is a Tel Aviv institution - a vegan restaurant that's been around awhile. Well, they just opened a branch in Raanana - it's called Shibolet, and appears to be a franchise of Buddha Burger.

We were pretty much the only people there so I'm not sure just how long they will stay alive. The food wasn't bad. The "classic" burger tasted like the veggie burger they used to make at Burger King in the UK many years back. A little beany for my liking. But the sides were good and the kids liked their food. The boy was very happy with his vegan shwarma. No fries though - too unhealthy it seems.

One must support the vegetarian alternatives where possible.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

No Archaeology Today

No archaeology today. I woke up with a bit of a cold and a pounding head, so decided to spend the day catching up on the reading for my course. I have never had to read so much for any of my studies so far, and I hardly made a dent. I have two weeks or so to write a paper and while I have an outline I am short on content and thus need to read. As short as I am on content I'm way shorter on words. This is not good - with all this free time I'm having trouble buckling down and getting my work done. Enough moaning, it's time to hit the books again.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Happy Birthday (and Guy Fawkes Day)

It's our beautiful blackdaughtero's 17th birthday today. Life with you gets better every day, my girl. You bring us joy and happiness. You are smart, funny and caring. There are no words that cover the love I feel for you. As ever, there are just two pieces of advice I will give you. The same advice since the day you were born. One, all boys are fools. Two, watch what they do and ignore what they say.

Happy Birthday blackdaughtero, you bring light into our lives.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hot and Dry

The days just fly by. I have been studying, going to class, reading and tonight I took some time out and caught up on my TV watching. I watched two new Time Teams, still my favorite and then I caught up on a few of this seasons new House. Seems funnier than last season, so I'm happy.

Now can someone please explain to me what is with this weather. It was hot today and unhumid. My hands are so dry that they don't even get wet when I do the dishes. Come on, let's have some rain already.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A tough day

It was a tough day at squint central. Such good people.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Voted

It's the US elections on Tues. and I was happy to get my mail-in ballot a few weeks back. I was even happier to find out that California now allows you to email in your vote. The accompanying instructions told me to fill out my ballot, then scan it and attach it to an email message and email it to the registrar's email address.

So I took it all very seriously. I researched all the propositions and analyzed all the candidates, then carefully filled out my ballot. Then I tried to scan it. The dammed thing is huge and will fit no scanner I have ever seen. So I had to resort to folding it all sorts of ways, then scanning it into separate files and then I sent off the email with eight attachments. I also sent a nice message saying that it was rather 80% of them to allow us to scan in the ballot, but it is so huge that this is not an easy thing to do.

I got a sort of form letter back saying they had received my ballot, but not a word about the split files. I hope they have enough sense to be able to piece together all the bits. If those dammed Tea Partyers get in, I guess you'll know why.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Appolonia - once again

I got up early this morning to drive to Beer Sheva to pick up the boy and to go check out Tel Beer Sheva. I have been there before but I was interested in looking at the "Israelite Four Roomed House" up close. My project on Standing Buildings may have some connection to this, so I figured I would go look close up. By the time I got to Beer Sheva I had a splitting migraine and was feeling most nauseous, so the boy and I headed home. After I stopped at the service on Highway 6 and downed a coffee and croissant I felt a lot better, so after dropping the boy at home I decided to visit Appolonia. My Park Services card lets me get in for free, and I was interested in checking out their excavations over the summer.

I was surprised to find Nir, one of the chaps who dug with me at Meggido last week was sitting in the ticket booth. Seems he works for the Parks Services over the weekend. He told me they have been funded to dig in the Crusader castle starting next week. I gave him my email address seeing as I have some time on my hands and would love to help. We will see.

I had a really nice walk around Appolonia. I was surprised that there were quite a few people enjoying the wind, sea and spectacular views. I walked all around and took more pictures of the fortress and Roman villa. I am looking for a nice old Standing Building for my project. I doubt either of these count as they are not really standing. Still it was a very nice walk. Here are a few pictures. If you are more interested in the site, look here.
I am always so impressed with these huge and thick casement walls. They are build right on the cliffs. I wonder how much of the banks has been eroded and has fallen into the sea.
This is a Samaritan wine press. It is at the far northern edge of the site and is quite impressive. I am not sure when they dug this but I don't remember seeing it last time I was here.
Nice archaeology. I would like to get some experience at a "classical" site like this. It is very different to Megiddo.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Bad Back

So blackwifeo has a bad back. She has been complaining for a few weeks that it feels like it's going to go out. Well it did last night. She came crawling up the stairs into the bedroom and has spent the last 24 hours somewhere between agony, oblivion (good pills) and misery. My heart goes out to her, but I'm not under any circumstances going to give her the Voltarin shot she got from the doctor (she is in too much pain to go there, so he sent her the shot). I just totally suck at being a nurse. I have no patience at all - she never supposed to get sick, that's my job and then she looks after me.

Still, we are trying to help. The loving daughter even made us supper. Veggie hamburgers from scratch that were really very good. She is prancing around the house dressed in her Halloween best, which comprises of some very tight tights and a sort of corset thingy. It seems that it is proper to wear as little as is possible for Halloween, if you are 17.

Hope bwo gets better fast. We really need her around here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Time Flies

I don't know what happened to this week. I had such big plans when it started - I would do all the bills, clean out my closet, spend time on the unfinished and neglected guitars, finish all the reading for my studies, and begin writing a paper on dating domestic buildings. I did none of the above. I made some progress on a few things, but not nearly enough. I don't know where the time went. Now it's Thursday and nearly the weekend and I have still a huge amount to accomplish. I wasted no time watching TV (except last week's Time Team), but I did read some junky novels. Why, Oh why is the time flying by. This is not good.

Saying of the week, by none other than Yaron the Prophet, on my moving to an ajoining cube. "Better a close neighbour than a distant brother". Sounds better in Hebrew (it's from Proverbs 27:10)

טֹ֥וב שָׁכֵ֥ן קָ֝רֹ֗וב מֵאָ֥ח רָחֹֽוק

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One Love

I know this song is old and the video could be much better, but you know what, I don't care cause I like it:

just saying.

Oh and I like this as well.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tear Along the Perforation

Today I started going through the years of papers we have accumulated in the last year and a half since I last took on this mission. So far three boxes full. Bank papers, bills, report cards, bills, receipts, instruction manuals, cell phone accounts, insurance papers, bills and more bills. I have found a new hate. Why is it that the bank and credit card companies have now decided to save paper, but instead of going completely electronic, they now send you your statements in a mailing where the envelope is part of the bill. You know what I mean, you need to carefully tear along the perforations and then open the statement printed on the inside of the "envelope". Only here in this 80% country it is impossible to tear along the perforations because they are not deep enough. So unless you are really careful you end up with a horribly messy statement that looks bad when placed in the file.

Come on people this must be improved. Go completely electronic. If Bank of America can do it, so can you. Either that or perforate better.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Where Have All The Glasses Gone?

We used to have dozens and dozens of glasses. No more. I heaven forbid you should need to drink some water in this house, you will most likely need to wash out a used tea cup or use an old jam jar or just drink from the tap. I have a theory as to what is going on - it's Azziza. Maybe she has some Greek stock in her gene pool and when no one is around, she puts on the music to Zorba the Greek and dances across the kitchen, hands held high above her head all the while smashing glasses on the tiled floor.

We will have to go back to Ikea one of these days, I'm tired of having to use one of the cat's bowls to take my vitamins at night.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Megiddo Revisited

I was lucky enough to spend a day digging at Megiddo today. I am exhausted and can hardly move this evening, but I'm happy. I had a great time. The Weitzmann Institute was doing some investigations in Area Q, the area where I spent my summer. We were taking down some of the baulks (the built up portions between the squares) and found all sorts of pots and even some burnt grains which will be good for carbon dating. One thing this day (which started at 5am) made crystal clear is just how out of shape I am. Time to start up an exercise program. I will post some pictures in a little while once I manage to get them off the camera.

A nice jar.
Some interesting pots.
Birds as seen from the Tel.

Yummy, curry tonight for dinner. Blackwifeo has really outdone herself, and she cooked all on her own while I scurried over the tel playing in the dirt.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Down the Line

Things have been quiet here on the 80% blog for the last little while. In truth there are a lot of changes taking place in my life, but I'm not really ready to talk about them yet. The time will come, soon.

I don't know if you noticed but yesterday Beer Sheva was without water for the day (see Haaretz article here). I called the boy to see if he noticed. He had, but only vaguely. It appears that the main water line to the city was cut during repairs to the train line. The train has not been running since Saturday which caused him much more pain seeing as he had to return to school by bus after "band practice" on Saturday night. Showering and washing floors just are not core strengths of his.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Andrew Bird

One good thing that came out of the recent trip to the US is while sitting in his lounge in Albany after the Arcade Fire concert, nephew blackedwino introduced me to Andrew Bird. I had never heard of the chap, but it seems (at least by the number of YouTube videos) that I have missed out on a phenomenon. I bought his "Armchair Apocrypha" album and was suitably impressed. This is the official video for "Imitosis". Once I heard this song I could not get the central theme out of my head for days. The whole album is just very good indeed. I love having something new to explore.

It is worth taking a few minutes to watch some live videos of him. This video or this one of Scythian Empire, show his excellent use of loops and whistling.

Space, the final frontier.

Joch posted a link to this video on his FB page. It is completely awesome. This is the sort of stuff one is supposed to do with one's kids. Just watch it.

Homemade Spacecraft from Luke Geissbuhler on Vimeo.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Back To School

I started classes at TAU today. I was fortunate to be able to sign up for a seminar class with Dr. Finkelstein called "Text and Archaeology". There's about 20 people in the class and most are very versed in the ins and outs of biblical texts and archaeology. What I found incredible was the amount of arguing and opposition in the class. Granted this is a masters level class and the students all have some experience, but the vehemence that the subject matter generated was certainly unexpected. Some of the arguments were clearly an attempt to illustrate the depth of knowledge of the "questioner", and not for any desire to hear the ideas of the prof. At one point I got quite annoyed as I had come to hear Dr. Finkelstein's views and not a bunch of opinionated graduate students.

Coming from the sciences (and a university in the US) I was amazed that students have so little respect for the professor that they have no trouble shouting over his statements, not allowing him time to state his position and just being plain argumentative (I have a child at home that would feel completely at home in this class). I am in two minds as to whether this is a good thing or not. On the one hand, students here feel completely empowered to voice their opinions with no filters. There certainly is a completely free exchange of ideas. On the other, I am not sure people were really listening to what was being said, rather they were waiting for an opportunity to voice their point of view.

The time passed quickly and I'm quite looking forward to the next class on Tuesday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Lag

Man, Oh man, do I have jetlag. It always hits me the second day. Last night I was exhausted at 8pm. I was reading some articles from the stack of papers for my new course (Standing Buildings) and my eyelids were drooping. After stressing out that bdo was not home by 10pm (she was working at the ice cream shoppe), I lay down, but sleep eluded me. My mind was racing. I counted sheep, meditated, went down and ate some humus (good night food), still no way I could sleep. I heard bdo slink into her room at 12:15, the neighbours got home at 2:18, the cats held a campaign in their ongoing civil war around 3:30, I played sudoku for a few hours. At 4:30am I heard the paper boy drive by on his Vespa and finally sunk off to sleep. I hope tonight is easier - I have a long "school board planning session" in the morning, so no archaeology for me this Saturday.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Big Fun in the Air

Israelis don't listen. When the crew on the plane makes an announcement, no one stops talking. Messages that are repeated clearly in English and then in Hebrew are for other people, not them. My flight back home yesterday was everything a flight to Israel can be, crowded, annoying, mind-numbingly long which all serves to make the relief of arriving home sweeter.

The cultural worm-hole that connects mainland Israel to any gate that has a flight leaving for Israel was very visible at Newark last night. The fact that they repeated about 100 times that everyone needs to have their passports and boarding passes stamped at the counter before boarding the plane did nothing to deter at least half the passengers from holding up the line and looking blankly when told to go get their passes stamped. The flight was full, overbooked in fact. They offered $600 with a night in a hotel and 3 meal passes to anyone prepared to relinquish their place. No one took them up on their offer. It would be like taking points off the board.

I was sitting one row behind the bulkhead seats. The plane filled up with Israelis, all of whom had to argue with the gate agent, while claiming that their second huge carry-on was really just a computer case. The overhead bins we full before I boarded, but I managed to squeeze my little backpack into the corner of a bin. There was shouting and complaining about the lack of bin space as we all got settled. The bulkhead row was empty and just as it seemed the doors would close and we could make disguised moves to claim these gems, a religious family boarded. Our whole section's worse nightmare - A young mother, and rabbi'ish looking father claimed the row, along with their 5 screaming children, the oldest of whom was 4.5 (this is no exaggeration).

So there were 3 seats for 7 of them. The crew looked at them quizzically, OK, so each of you have one of the little ones on your lap, that means 5 seats - but there are only 3 seats in this row. After 10 minutes of furious discussion (they actually spoke English), eventually it turns out that they came late (from New York, not on a connection, so there is no one to blame) and their other two seats were spread out all over the plane. Now you understand the logistics of this all. They need at least these 3 seats together along with another 2 seats together. So they start bargaining. The plane had by now pulled back from the gate and started taxiing towards the runway. The family all this time is standing in the aisles, kids kicking and screaming (in Yiddish), looking around helplessly. Eventually the "Cabin Service Director" makes an announcement. If we can't get these people seated, we have to delay takeoff. Of course, no one on the plane even hears the message because Israelis don't listen to announcements. Eventually we seat the oldest girl next to us as the nice Chinese/American tourist in our row volunteers his aisle seat for a middle, and the father goes off carrying one of the screamers with him.

For the full 11.5 hours of the flight we had at least one of the children crying, often two or three screeching at the same time. It was to be seen to be believed. At the start of the flight it was announced that due to new Israeli regulations, everyone needs to be seated 40 minutes before landing at Ben Gurion. This was repeated numerous times in English and Hebrew during the flight. Of course, no one listened. 1.5 hours before landing they made the announcement once again urging everyone to use the bathroom NOW, because 40 minute before landing everyone needs to be seated. Of course, no one paid the least bit of attention and as the seat belt sign came on 40 mins before landing, there was a huge rush for the bathroom. The air crew threatened in Hebrew and English that they would have to circle outside Israeli airspace unless people sat down. No one budged. In fact more people got up to stand in the aisles. The religious family in front decided this was the time to swap seats, Oh, and one of their kids seemed to have disappeared. Needless to say, the plane landed on time and only required three warnings that people can only get up once the captain has turned off the seatbelt sign and we are parked at the gate.

The kids in front of us screamed the whole way down of course. The "Service Director" had come around from time to time and smiling had told all us in earshot of the screams, "don't worry there's only 10/8/6/4 hours left". Once we had landed, he came by and said, "Just think, I have to do this flight every Tuesday". Not for all the tea in china - not me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Coming Home

I leave for the airport in a few minutes to begin the long journey home. It has been wonderful to see my family here in Houston. People have been good to me all along the way, both in Cali and Texas. We have good friends here in the US and I miss them all when I'm at home. All in all it has been a good trip, although the business side could have been much better. I have had a lot of time to think. And as always I appreciate what I have at home way more after being away for two weeks. Hope the trip back is smooth. Next stop Raanana.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Save KTRU

Today while driving around Houston I listened to KTRU. KTRU is the Rice University radio station that has been recently "acquired" by the University of Houston to become a 24hr classical music station while UofH's KTRH becomes a full time public radio station. I have received all kinds of mailed (snail and email) pleas and requests from KTRU to help stop the sale. I signed the online "protest" and even sent a condolences email to their web site. But, living outside of Houston I sort of did not take this all to seriously.

I used to listen to KTRU all the time when I was at college and working in Houston. I loved their totally eclectic brand of outrageous music and monotonic DJing. But, I had truly forgotten how completely unusual they really are. Today while stuck in traffic on the Southwest Freeway I heard 10 minutes of what sounded like someone banging on his bathtub, followed by Algerian rap in French, followed by some Cajun guitar and then 20 minutes of Ornette Coleman strangling his sax. This really is a one in a million radio station and it will be a great shame when it's forced off the air. While I don't love everything that's played, it's one of the truly unique things about this great sprawling mass of urbaness. I will miss it when it's gone.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Saturday at the Mall

Seeing as it's Saturday and I'm in Houston, I spent most of the day shopping. Not for me, of course, but for the extended family. I was mostly unsuccessful, only achieving a 50% hit rate at best. Target is still number one. I even found myself a pair of pants. I'll need to go back tomorrow because the latest request list came in just as I got home.

So there we are in Target, mother, sister and I. I wander off to inspect the mens room and buy some candy for the kids and promptly lose my entourage. I have no trouble finding them, the sound of their amplified voices carries all the way across the kiddies section. They could make good money as the PA system in the store.

I hate shopping. I wish bwo was here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Houston

I have been busy. Mostly driving about the Bay Area, it's true. I put a huge amount of miles on the rental car. They gave me a Chevy Useless and I pushed it to its limits. I was up at 5am this morning, returned the "car" and flew off to Houston. We arrived 15 minutes early and then had to wait for 45 minutes till our gate was ready. Then I walked the 5km or so from the gate to the baggage claim - it really is unbelievable.

Blacksistererio picked me up from the airport and we immediately got stuck in a huge traffic jam so it took way longer than an hour to get to my Mom's place, where I am staying. We had a chance to get caught up on our lives while stuck on Bletway 8. The Hamptons, the "retirement community" where the mother lives is something else. Her apartment has a spare room with on suite bathroom. They have valet parking and a twenty four hour guard in case any of the residents try break out. There are a lot of people walking around with walkers, but this is America and they have these fancy walkers with big wheels, sort of "all terrain walkers", none of those clunky aluminum frames with tennis balls on the legs for these guys. It seems both my Mom and sister's hearing is not the best so there is a lot of shouting and repetitions. Still it's great to be here with my family. The only one who is not at all pleased to see me is my mother's very spoiled cat Beau (or B.O. after my dad). I am sleeping on his couch and he is very put out. He hisses and bats at my legs whenever I walk past, but he is a very inside cat and his claws are pretty much non existent. The cats of HaNevel street would have him for breakfast. He would be tasty too as he's a little on the chubby side.

Tomorrow is "shopping for bwo" day. I'll go visit the storage cupboard at my sister that has all the mail order stuff. She says it's completely full. Bwo of course denies having bought anything.

p.s. Happy 70th Mr. Lennon

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I'm Back

Here in the midst of Silicon Valley the internet has been out for the last few days - that's why there been no blogging. I'm staying in Los Altos Hills at J+D who are as ever the most wonderful hosts. Their new house has spectacular grounds complete with rabbits, squirrels and deer (at least that's what I've seen so far), but the internet was flaky. It looks like it's working now so I can catch up on what's going on in the world.

It is always nice to be here. I have visited a lot of old friends and eaten many meals at many different restaurants. I drove past our old house on Olive Street in Sunnyvale and it looks just the same as ever. People have been complaining about the economy and the lack of interesting work, but it none the less seems that good people don't have trouble finding employment.

I arrived back at J+D a few minutes ago after another large dinner and am ready for bed. The jet lag has not been too crippling, although I find it hard to talk coherently by this time of night. So I'm going to bed.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Edison - A Good Cat

Bwo called me with the sad news that Edison died today. He was special, gentle, kind, patient and forgiving. He never got angry or lashed out at anyone, no matter how much he was provoked. He loved any attention, but was not pushy. He was at peace with every living creature and would spend hours patiently allowing the young kittens to climb all over and gnaw on his soft coat. We had no idea how old he was, but he was always an old soul. He will be missed by all who knew him. We are richer for having had the honor of being his friends.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Over the Bay

I drove over the bay from Albany to Los Altos Hills this afternoon. I had forgotten that distances here are very different to what I'm used to back home. The trip from my E+L's place to Jonathan and Dewi took over an hour, even though they are not so far apart conceptually. It is beautiful up here in the hills. Their new house is on a huge piece of land that includes trees, gardens and deer. The view is spectacular and you can see all the way to San Fransisco and the bay. I was spoiled by some of Dewi's excellent home made bread and good cheese for tea and then Indian food for dinner with some old friends. We laughed a lot and seeing as we are all getting older we spent a lot of time talking about our various ailments and pains.

I got back to J+D's a little while back. It is always quite hairy to drive in the hills at night. There are no streetlights and it is very, very dark, but the GPS knew the way, and all is well. It is quite chilly out and the heated floors here are very pleasing to bare feet. I miss this fresh air and its smell when I'm in Israel. I forgot just how pretty it is here. There is good reason why this is some of the most expensive real estate around.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Concert

I saw the Arcade Fire tonight. Wow. It was amazing. The crowd was mellow and kind, the opposite of what it's like at home. We found great places to stand, near enough and even though there were a lot of touches by other people, they do understand the required distance necessary for good manners. Thanks eddie, firstly for introducing me to the Arcade Fire all those years ago and for the concert tonight. If I'm going to one concert a decade, this was the correct one to pick. I'll see if I have any pictures worth posting tomorrow.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Getting Old

It definitely sucks to get old. I have to go down on a knee and bless bwo. Last night I got showered and dressed, I was already packed, and after a brief stop at Barry's to wish Kate a happy, bwo dropped me off at the airport. I stood in the security line and when the nice security man came to check my passports, I opened my pouch only to find two US passports (bwo and mine) and NO Israeli passport. I am sure I checked, but hey this old age thing and all that. In a panic I called bwo who was on her way back to the party and begged her to bring me my passport. Without the least bit of reproach or bad attitude, she drove home, picked up the forgotten passport and returned to the airport. I just made the flight. I miss her already. That's not all.

The plane was delayed for a few hours, due to a suspected "incident" with another (Croatian) plane, and the long flight was really bumpy. We arrived at Newark late and I barely made the San Fransisco flight because of all the customs and baggage hassle at Newark. Once seated on the 6 hour flight from Newark to SFO (after the 14 hour flight from TA to Newark) I tried my credit card in the entertainment system (costs $6 for DirectTV on domestic flights). It didn't work. A half hour later I realized something was missing - my wallet. Severe panic ensued. My life (credit cards, drivers license etc.) is in that wallet. The flight attendants got everyone on my side of the plane to stand and look under their seats - nada. Finally one of the attendants got on her hands and knees and crawled under a seat in front and found the dammed thing. It must have dropped on the floor and then been kicked forward. What a fool I felt. I stood up and thanked everyone and proceeded to grovel a bit. Thank god the wallet showed up.

That was the last indecent of the day. I and my luggage arrived safely in the Bay Area. My nephew's place is lovely as is seeing the family. Its been a good day so far although now it's a struggle to keep my eyes open. More tomorrow. Bwo is just such a star.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bye

I hate packing for travel. No matter how organized I am, and no matter how much planning I do beforehand I always get a sinking feeling in the stomach when I start selecting clothes to put in a suitcase. But, now I'm done. I've made my choices and packed my clothes and the multitude of gifts I'm taking with to the US. My toiletries and meds are all taken care of and all that's left to do is to pack my backpack and travel docs. Going to the States is always good. Let's face it, if I left anything behind I can get it there. I also really don't like traveling without bwo. She loves airports, airplanes and hotels - I don't, but her enthusiasm rubs off and makes it all so much easier. I do get better over time. On a long trip like this, I put my body and mind in park and switch off until I reach my destination after 24 hours of travel. Next post, California.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Later

Sorry I've not really been blogging since I got home. It has been impossibly busy and I really have not had enough time. Hopefully that will change and I'll come back in full force once I hit the US on Friday. I'll leave you with this thought:

We went to the Netherlands and all I bought myself was 8 disposable razors. Am I really that cheap.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Home

I've noticed something interesting about coming home. The house always looks so lived in. When I'm away and thinking of home, it seems to always have clean walls, no junk laying around and the shower is pristine and shiny. Then when I come home I'm always shocked at how worn the house looks. We have been living here for 10 years now so it's not surprising. Funny, I get the same feeling when I mistakenly glance in the mirror.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tot ziens Clovenhove

We woke up early (8am is early for this family), cleaned the house, returned the keys and motored off to Amsterdam. Bwo found us an excellent hotel on the Herengracht which overlooks the canals, although our 4 person room overlooks the rest of the hotel. We paid for a parking service where they come pick up your car, and return it when you want instead of the 36 Euro a day for parking in the non existing parking on the street. We then walked around a bit and took a boat tour of the canals. Its a very pretty city is Amsterdam. Now we are having a little rest and then we will go walking again.

I am already feeling down knowing what's waiting for me over the next few days. First going home and then back to work and stress for a few days then off to the US. All in all this has been a intense vacation and this kind of thing is not for the week of heart (with teenagers). They keep telling me I'm grumpy and miserable, so what's new.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Lazy Day

Yesterday we just hung around the resort. The girl and I rented bicycles and went for a nice long ride in the forests, while bwo and the boy slept, read and played on the internet. I am happy to say I did not touch a computer all day except to turn off file sharing (thanks anonymous). We spent hours on the ridiculously difficult puzzle we bought a few days back, looks like we have no chance of finishing it, hopefully the next people to use this cabin will. We lazed out and bought pizza for dinner, the kids watched TV (they have the original A Team series on here). A relaxing and stress free day, just what we needed.

Today is sadly our last full day here. We will leave for Amsterdam tomorrow morning and then fly home Saturday evening. I already have butterflies in my stomach thinking about the week ahead and my business trip to the US. Time waits for no man and all good things must come to an end (enough with the cliches).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Like To Ride My Bicycle

Yesterday evening our internet went out. Crisis! Oh what a crisis. We complained to reception, they told us to call the provider, it was all in Dutch, left a message, went to sleep with it not working and woke up with the the "no connection" sign still flashing. We complained again and they sent someone by, he spoke to some people on his walkie talkie and then told us in his broken English "the provider is brokened". When we got back from our trip this afternoon it was working again. Praise the Lord. The thing is that we have not been able to find an English speaking map and so without google earth we're a little trapped. Luckily I wrote down the address of the De Hoge Veluwe National Park yesterday, and so we visited there today.

What an awesome place it is. Amazingly enough, the second best Van Gogh collection (next to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam) can be found in the Museum in the middle of the park. The park is a giant forest with trails all over and best of all, they have thousands of free white bicycles. So you park your car at one of the entrances (we entered the Otterloo gate) and then take four free bicycles and cycle around the park, visiting the museum (only after someone has to ride back to the car because someone else forgot to bring the tickets), eating a picnic lunch in the woods and just generally having fun on the bicycles. It was really great, even the boy had a good time.

Blackdylano decided she wants a bicycle just like the free white ones when she gets home. I can just see her in her micro mini dresses and 6 inch heels cycling around Raanana. Fat chance. I'll post pictures in the morning.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The car hunger gene

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon when it comes to driving with the family (we have done quite a bit of this of late). As soon as any member of the family gets into the car, they get hungry. Now it matters not if they have stuffed themselves a half hour before, someone is always hungry. This usually happens as soon as we hit the open road, once we have left the hotel/holiday home. What is strange is that it's never all of them together, usually only one at a time. Usually only one is hungry while the others feel sick, or nauseous or need to pee, but that's another whole blogpost in itself.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Deventer Blues

Blackdaughtero here!
Yes it has been quite a while since my last blog post. Well, I have been very busy.
At the moment I am sitting on a moderately comfortable couch, looking out the glass walls at a beautiful forest scene, listening to Win Butler whine about how much he wants a daughter before he gets too old.....I tell you, this album is amazing (The Arcade Fire-The Suburbs) but also the general theme is quite familliar-Growing Old, Family, Kids, City blah blah blah.
But this is not what I am really here to talk about. What I actually intend to tell you, if anyones cares enough to listen, is about our day yesterday.
Yesterday, the Ostrin fam shipped themselves out to Deventer, a little town which seemed very quiet, empty, tranquil and small.....at first. Well mother of course has a way of sniffing out shopping and excitement, and surely enough, we found out the Deventer is quite a center of excitement, shopping, marketplace and overall a huge amount of people!! way to go mother!!
Me and her were very happy to have stumbled upon an opputunity to spend to money, but of course, the miseries were less then exited.
Blackmisrablefathero and Blackmiserablebrothero enjoyed the first half an hour of walking around....but soon of course, they were reminded that they are destined to hate every social and crowded place, and of course.......we were hungry.
The good thing is that Mother is probably the best person to be with when hungry as she very much loves loading food onto everyones plates. I don't think I even managed to say the word "hungry" before mom had appeared with 4 deep fired Korean egg rolls, equipped with hot and spicy sauce, One sandwich for the boy, and a deepfried banana. We also devoured all of the snap peas she had bought...originally intended to mix into a stirfry for dinner....FAIL.
The Eggroll was amazing....fried and yummy. Blackmisrablebrothero seemed to become a little less miserable after eating the deepfried banana so I guess it must have been good.
Deventer was very fun.....I enjoyed being around to life....and teenagers....and very cute Chegavuera enthusiests!!!
the rest f the day was more relaxed....we played on our devices, ate some dinner, and i watched Pulp Fiction for the very first time....don't laugh at me!!!
It was very good!1 I enjoyed it immensely!! and I have a feeling I will watch it today again!!
Anyways....I need to tear my eyes away from the screen and spend some time being one with nature!!!
It has been emotional!
until next time!
Blackdaughtero :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

In The Forest

We are in the middle of a forest. Really. And there is good internet. We left Amsterdam in the morning, it was raining again. The drive down was uneventful, but luckily we had the GPS. How did people live before they existed. Certainly they never found this place. The nearest town is Eerbeek, where we stopped to buy groceries at the supermarket. We love shopping in foreign supermarkets and this was a very nice one. We got our unit at 3pm. It's a stand alone bungalow, has 3 bedrooms, and is in the middle of the forest. I just came back from a wonderful hour long walk in the trees. It was getting dark and I nearly got lost as the sun was going down and there are few lights out here. We\re all sitting around in the lounge, some reading, most playing on iPhones and computer. It's what we do, except here we're doing it in a forest. There are rabbits.

Pictures tomorrow.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The kids are alright

Heckle and Jeckle arrived this morning. We took the bus to the airport and picked up our rental car. No worries, it's black. Thank god for the GPS, its been a life saver. We drove through the center of town to our first hotel, picked up our bags, and then went to our next hotel. The Hotel Kap (or as call it Hotel Crap). Jo found picked this place because it has a room for four. It's not nearly as nice as the first place, more like an B+B than a hotel. We have our own bathroom, but it's not in our room, sort of out on the landing outside. The toilet is nothing like anything I've ever seen and Ive seen it all. The boy has named it Frankentoilet. It has a pump and makes all sorts of noises and doesn't really swallow well, a basic toilet requirement in most parts of the world.

We are all exhausted. We crashed for three hours in the afternoon. Tonight we went awalking again, ate mediocre Indian food and then visited the Red Light District. We are now back in the hotel all very tired and shagged out. The most expensive thing in Amsterdam (where nothing is inexpensive) is the parking. It costs 4 euro an hour to park on the street. Which is a problem if you are here overnight. Tomorrow its off to our timeshare. I also need to upload our pictures, hopefully there is internet in next place else it will be a quiet week on the blog. Have a good fast all of you.
Frankentoilet.
My loves after lunch at Hans en Grietje.